21 March 2022
Haines steps up campaign for better rail for the North East
Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines has stepped up her campaign for a better rail service for North East Victoria outlining a five-part proposal to secure faster, frequent, and more reliable trains.
Dr Haines’ five-part rail plan calls for a new timetable with more frequent services, additional maintenance funding to keep trains running safely at peak speeds of 130km/hour, a dedicated platform for North East Trains at Sunshine Station to allow streamlined connections to the other parts of the Victorian railway network, holding VLine to account for hitting its punctuality and reliability targets, and delivering high-quality station upgrades as part of the Inland Rail project.
“We have just spent $235 million upgrading the line, which is fantastic, but a better rail line is not much unless the rail service is high-quality. We now actually need to see the trains running on time, all the time, safely, and often.”
“Even though the line has been upgraded, there is no extra maintenance money to keep the line at peak standard. If the line deteriorates, the trains won’t be able to hit their top speeds of around 130 km/hr and we’ll be back to square one. The Federal and State Governments need to get their act together and stump up at least $5 million to keep our trains running fast and safely.”
Dr Haines said that the timetable is no longer fit-for-purpose for a modern regional community.
“The last train out of Wodonga is at 5:30pm. That’s not good enough for people who might want to travel to Wangaratta or Melbourne after work. People who want to train to Melbourne for work or medical appointments just can’t rely on it to arrive on time.”
“You should be able to live and work anywhere up and down the North East Line and know that you’ll be able to get to work and get back home on time – we need a new timetable with more frequent services to support our growing community.”
VLine data compiled by Dr Haines shows that VLine has hit its targets on punctuality and reliability just once in the last year.
“What’s the point in spending all this money if the trains still don’t run on time? VLine has got to lift its game. And the Federal Government has got to be accountable for the money it has spent on the line.”
Dr Haines’ advocacy continues several years of campaigning on rail issues, including the Federal Government’s controversial plans to redevelop rail precincts in Wangaratta, Benalla, Euroa and Glenrowan, and the Victorian Government’s decision to exclude the North East Line from its major new rail interchange at Sunshine Station.
Haines said the Federal Government needs to do better to deliver its promises on better rail for North East Victoria, citing a 2019 election commitment to develop a business case into fast rail to Wodonga, that the Government has failed to deliver.
“At the last election, the Government promised a business case into fast rail to Wodonga. That business case was supposed to be completed last year. But on the eve of an election, they’ve quietly announced it now won’t be done until after the next election.”
“People in Wodonga want the Government to actually deliver a better rail service for our community, not just talk about it once every three years. That’s why I’m outlining a detailed plan for our rail line – because we know what needs to be done. And we want the Government to stop talking and start delivering.”
“What our rail communities have seen over the last two years is the power of having a fearless advocate in the Federal Parliament, who has the freedom to take the fight to Government rather than being muzzled by party politics.”
“The plan I have outlined is a sensible one that will get the North East Line moving again. As an Independent, I have the freedom to hold both the Victorian Labor and the Federal Coalition Governments to account for their commitments. And both need to do better on our rail line.”